By the Fairtrade Cannabis Working Group

We open this Position Paper by the Fair(er) trade Cannabis Working Group to share our position on future cannabis policy in the Caribbean region, with one main finding and one recommendation taken from the Report of the CARICOM Regional Commission on Marijuana, 2018. The relevant sections read:

The evidence indicates that the existing legal prohibitionist regime on cannabis/marijuana is not fit for purpose. Both the financial and human costs are huge. The Commission is satisfied that there should be significant changes to the laws of the region to enable the dismantling of this regime to better serve Caribbean peoples. A public health/ rights-based approach is better able to confront the challenging multidimensional parameters of the drug problem, including its health, social justice and citizen security aspects.
Small farmers and small businesspersons should be included in production and supply arrangements with appropriate controls limiting large enterprise and foreign involvement.

The Position Paper aims to contribute to the debate on finding sustainable and realistic solutions to the challenges posed by the developing cannabis industry, with a special focus on traditional and small-scale farmers.

Despite some promising shifts in policy and amendments to many outdated drug laws, to date no CARICOM country has legalized cannabis. Some CARICOM countries have decriminalized possession and cultivation for personal use and/or for medicinal purposes and more are considering this initiative. So far, only two countries worldwide have legalised cannabis (Canada (2001 – Medical use; 2018 – Adult use) and Uruguay (2013). Several other countries are considering regulating the cannabis market, including Luxembourg and New Zealand.

Although changes are being made to outdated laws, there are increasing complaints about the inadequacies of the current reforms and the need for bolder changes in legislation and practice. It is increasingly clear that the current reforms fail to address many pressing contemporary issues, namely social inequalities and access to justice. Of prime importance globally are the legal and regulatory barriers that prevent small-scale or traditional ganja/cannabis farmers from entering and benefiting from the emerging medical cannabis industry. The latter has become a competitive global market in which the Caribbean region could occupy a unique niche in the future.